World's smallest spacecraft Sprites launched by Indian rocket

Jul 31, 2017 10:08 IST

The world's smallest spacecraft were on 23 June 2017 successfully launched into low-Earth orbit by Indian rocket Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV).

Known as 'Sprites', these tiny satellites are just 3.5cm x 3.5cm and carry radios, sensors and computers, and each device is powered by sunlight and weighs just four grams.

World's smallest spacecraft Sprites launched successfully

The Sprites were constructed by researchers at Cornell University and transported into space as secondary payloads by the two larger German satellites Max Valier and Venta.

As per the scientists, the communications received from the mission show that the Sprite system is performing as designed. This mission is designed to test how well the Sprites' electronics perform in orbit.

Though Sprites have previously been carried to the International Space Station, but this is the first time that it was possible to launch such a lightweight satellite into space and communicate with it.

The Sprite Spacecraft was developed under the Breakthrough Starshot program and is the creation of Zac Manchester, whose 2011 Kickstarter campaign 'KickSat' raised the first funds to develop the concept.

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About Breakthrough Starshot
Breakthrough Starshot is a comprehensive program under Breakthrough Initiatives to develop and launch practical interstellar space missions.

Announced by Yuri Milner and Stephen Hawking, it is a USD 100 million program that aims to demonstrate proof of concept for light-propelled spacecraft that could fly at 20 per cent of light speed.

It also aims to send one-gram chips to star systems beyond the solar system in search of extraterrestrial intelligence.

These tiny satellites mark the next step of uprising in spacecraft miniaturization that can contribute to the development of centimeter and gram-scale StarChips envisioned by the Breakthrough Starshot project.

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